Stranger Things Season 2 Review

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Following up on my YouTube review, it’s time to share a more in depth review of Stranger Things‘s second season.

Season 2 picks up almost a year after the first. The lab and the upside down are still active. The gang (almost called them the Losers Club) are moving on in the absence of Eleven, although Mike is still struggling with the concept. Will is still haunted by visions of the Upside Down and it soon becomes clear that his visions aren’t all in his head. Meanwhile, Eleven has returned but is confined to one of Hopper’s cabins, for her own safety.

As with season one, the performances are one of the show’s most consistent and powerful redeeming qualities. Winona Ryder and our new Hellboy, David Harbour, return stronger than ever but the kids (or teenagers) continue to shine here. Millie Bobby Brown deservedly gets a lot of attention for her role as Eleven in season 1. Although her lines were limited she was still able to convey great emotion.

In season 2, Hopper has been teaching Eleven more english so the character gets to be more verbally expressive. We still have the facial expressions and other cues from season 1 combined with a character arc that sees Eleven acting on her desire to be free. She has gone from a system with no freedom (the lab), to more freedom with friends, and now she must try to adjust to Hopper as a parental figure who is trying to protect her from men who still want to find her. The relationship between Hopper and Eleven is actually one of my favourite parts of this season and their fight in episode four is one of my favourite moments. It is a conflict where you can empathize with both characters. Eleven understands why she must be kept hidden but after almost a year she is wondering when she will finally be free, and vague declarations of “soon” start to wear thin. Meanwhile, Hopper realizes the danger she places them in by leaving the cabin. His attempts to discipline her are met with pushback that makes you realize how dangerous Eleven could be without a conscience.

 

Despite my love for Eleven, Noah Schapp steals the show here as Will. Although the first season revolved around Will’s disappearance, Will had few lines and relatively little screen time. Here, Will is truly part of the group. For lack of a better term, Will is possessed and his conflict with the monster inside him is a lynchpin of the plot but also allows him to shine. I don’t think people are exaggerating when they say he deserves an Emmy nomination.

Let’s move on to some of the show’s weaker points.

Episode seven, which focuses on Eight and her gang, gets a lot of hate and I can understand why. The episode comes after a cliffhanger in the previous episode, serving as a full 40 minute cutaway that takes us away from Hawkins and the approaching demo-dogs. Due to its timing, the episode can almost come across as filler. Filler is exactly what made me stop watching The Walking Dead. 

I don’t consider episode seven filler, but I must say that it would likely have been better received if Eight was mentioned or referenced a few more times before episodes six and seven. We see Eight in episode one and then she is pretty much MIA until episode seven. I liked the episode itself since it offered a great view of what Eleven could have become. Eight never found the same type of friends and family Eleven did. Eight found other outcasts who stay on the fringes of society, sticking to a limited circle either out of choice or necessity. Eight is guided purely by vengeance, while Eleven’s search was about finding family and getting closure.

Aside from the lesson of the episode I found the episode itself entertaining. I will say that Eight’s gang wasn’t as interesting as Eleven’s. Of course I could be biased since we don’t get as much time with them, but even for an episode the characterization seemed paper thin e.g. the big one, the crazy one etc.

I remember watching season 1’s sensory deprivation scene and thinking that Barb’s death was somewhat glossed over, “gone”. It was great to see the impact her death continues to have on Nancy and Barb’s parents. Barb’s death also provides the plot lynchpin for the group to attack the lab publicly, without having to mention the upside down or anything else that might make them look insane.

For the people who hated that Nancy and Steve stayed together at the end of season one, your prayers were answered this season. I was actually happy that Nancy and Steve were still together at the start of this season. It would have been far too cliched for Nancy to switch that quickly from the jock to the quiet, nerdy guy the jock picked on. Steve was a tool at times in season 1 but he proved himself to be a good person by the end of it. Season 2 gives Steve more heartbreak but also lets his character develop more. Like Will, he is one of the biggest benefactors of this season.

An even weaker point of this season?

Now, the Duffer Bros. said they wanted to introduce a new human villain who wasn’t connected to the lab. Okay, but I think this kind of conflict works best if it also drives the plot forward. For example, perhaps Eleven could have come across someone who begins to threaten her anonymity. Max and Billy’s actors are competent enough, but their impact on the plot is miniscule. The love triangle that started early on in the season between Max, Dustin and Lucas fizzled out pretty early. Billy’s conflict with Steve culminates in the fight at the house, and the ultimate outcome of that fight is that Steve is forced to escort the kids into the tunnels. Steve could have been forced into this some other way. Originally I thought that Max and Billy may be Soviet spies, since Cold War conflict was hinted at throughout the season. If season 3 offers no further revelations about their characters then it seems like their characters were truly random editions.

Their screen time also detracts from more screen time for other characters. Lucas was defined by his relationship with Max this season and it would have been nice to see more of the group together helping Will.

The climax wasn’t boring but I would actually argue that it wasn’t the season’s most exciting point. No main characters died throughout the show’s run so it was clear that Sean Astin’s Bob would likely be a red shirt. Sorry superhero.

Thankfully, Barb’s death was enough to get the lab shut down.

Although Joyce Byers has her boys back, looks like she still needs some luck with men.

Watching Hopper mow down demo-dogs was pretty awesome and Eleven’s brief moment of “flying” made me wonder if she’ll go full Neo in season 3.

We’ll see I guess.

While Max and Billy are proof that more is not always better, season 2 delivers for the most part. It builds on threads from the previous season, develops characters more, answers more questions, raises more questions, and offers more thrills.

Alien: Covenant Review

2012’s Prometheus attempted to tell the story of the origin of the xenomorph that Alien fans have come to know and love. The film was met with mixed reviews to say the least, but I am among the people that didn’t love it, but also didn’t hate it with the same passion that is all too common online.

The film’s performances were its best asset. The visual effects were amazing, and there were some memorable creepy scenes. Prometheus asked a lot of interesting questions, but since it was setting itself up for a sequel, many of those questions remained unanswered.

The sequel has now arrived, taking place 10 years after the events of Prometheus. Colony ship Covenant is bound for Origae-6, with 15 crew members, 2000 colonists  and 1000 embryos in tow. After receiving a signal from a nearby planet, which scans show to be hospitable to human life, the crew decides to investigate the planet as a potential site for colonization. Of course, mayhem ensues as some crew members become infected and give birth to xenomorphs, or early prototypes of the xenomorph.

One Prometheus criticism that was rife on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) message boards (RIP), is that the scientists all made a lot of stupid decisions. I didn’t jump on that bandwagon as vehemently as some people did, but I could not deny that Covenant is definitely worthy of such criticism. In Prometheus, the scientists remove their helmets on an alien ship after realizing they can breathe the air. People thought that this was perhaps stupid since there could be other dangers. If you’ve seen the trailer for Covenant you already know one crew member gets infected when spores travel into his ear canal. Even before this scene comes along, I couldn’t help but wonder why there would be no precautions to wear helmets on a foreign planet at least until a variety of tests are conducted.

Maybe I could have excused the lack of helmets since the scientists already know the atmosphere is liveable. What I could not excuse was a scene where a scientist sniffs alien mushrooms and then touches them. He has gloves on, but doesn’t feel the need to back away when the mushrooms visibly release spores. He inhales them, and still doesn’t think to back away. In another scene, an alien bursts forth from a crew member, in full view of multiple armed crew members. While the alien takes some time to get its bearings, no one thinks to shoot it until it starts attacking. This kind of writing isn’t a “plot hole” as people love to say. It appears that “plot hole”, like “irony”, is a word that is often used incorrectly nowadays. Maybe there isn’t a specific term for what we see in Covenant, you could just call it sloppy writing that ruins enjoyment of the movie since a part of you feels like some of the characters bring it on themselves. At times, watching Covenant was like watching a slasher flick where the copulating co-eds decide to go investigate a strange noise. These moments are less prominent in the second half of the film, but they remain fresh in my mind.

I will also add that Covenant doesn’t answer all of the questions it asked in Prometheus, which was disappointing since it leaves some of the most interesting points of Prometheus moot for the moment. Perhaps another sequel will try to shed more light but suspense fizzles if it isn’t used just right. Additionally, Covenant also adds more backstory to the alien lore, which the more die-hard fans will either love or hate. I can cope with the new info, but it also adds more questions that remain unanswered.

On a more positive note, the performances give me something I am happy to remember.  Fassbender’s performance in Prometheus helped to cement him as one of my favourite actors, after his performance in X:Men First Class. Fassbender has since followed up Prometheus with 12 Years A Slave and Shame, further showcasing his versatility and talent. Here, Fassbender plays a marooned David, as well as Walter, a newer generation synthetic assigned to the Covenant. Walter is played with a southern accent, which slips at times and hampers the performance somewhat, although not nearly enough to ruin it. Fassbender is truly memorizing when playing David, and is undoubtedly the highlight of the film. Fassbender is also supported ably by Katherine Waterston, who plays second in command Daniels Branson. Billy Crudup plays his role well as the newly appointed Covenant captain, Christopher Oram, but his character’s story arc is also a victim of the aforementioned sloppy writing. Aside from Branson and Oram, many of the crewmembers have little to no development or real charisma on screen. Danny McBride is decent in a more serious role, but is still pretty forgettable.The other crew members have few lines and the actors don’t manage to do much with their lines either. While the main cast are strong, the supporting crew offer some stifled dialogue that makes you lose interest when the action cuts to them.

I have never been one to criticize CGI as a whole. However, I do criticize CGI if poorly rendered CGI is used in place of models, animatronics, motion capture etc. Alien (1979) had more convincing looking creatures. Even more recent films that used CGI aliens, such as Alien vs Predator (terrible film, I know) had more realistic looking creatures than the ones we see here. Other effects, such as some of the sequences involving the ship also look surprisingly cartoonish. Fortunately, the action sequences are actually entertaining, with Fassbender offering another highlight in this arena. Covenant may not be a real horror film for Alien fans, but the franchise has always had its fair share of violence and disturbing imagery. There are few jump scares throughout Covenant, and we do get some genuinely creepy ones that linger once the film is done. Yet again, I feel like these moments could have been improved if the characters were getting attacked by something that looked like it was made of flesh and blood.

Overall, Covenant was an entertaining film that surpassed its predecessor. Fassbender alone is worth the price of admission and although I wouldn’t say the film is a return to form for the Alien franchise, it is close to being there.

The OA Ending Thoughts

Note: Obviously there will be spoilers for the entire series below. 
Between catching up on Suits, and following several ongoing series I was reluctant to add another show to my list. However, a friend recommended The OA numerous times since they knew that I write science-fiction (The OA straddles sci-fi and fantasy).

I didn’t look up any reviews before I eventually decided to start watching. I was relieved to see the show only had one season, meaning the time investment wouldn’t be as detrimental as some other series that I’ve been recommended (I’m looking at you Community).

The OA did have some moments of relatively slow pacing but I didn’t notice the slower pace since the show began on an interesting note. Knowing that the main protagonist came back from a seven year disappearance with the ability to see drew me in, and made me patient for the buildup. This is in contrast to shows like True Detective (season one) where the actors and rave reviews made me willing to wait for the payoff.

Since The OA had a relatively slow build, and left a lot of questions unanswered going into the finale I hoped that the ending would give us a strong sendoff. I don’t mind ambiguous endings, with Inception being one of my favourites, but this is one ending that definitely leaves some questions. A second season is confirmed so I am sure more answers will be forthcoming, but I still wanted to share my thoughts on the ending of season 1.

Throughout the season, there is no real proof that the story Prairie is sharing is entirely true. Of course, we see the events, but we could only be seeing Khatun, the captives and the NDE’s through Prairie’s own warped perspective. Similar to how we see most of Fight Club through on character’s warped perspective. The audience and the five are likely to believe Prairie due to the miraculous nature of Prairie’s reappearance and the restoration of her eyesight. One miracle makes us willing to accept others.

Leading up the final scene, it appears Prairie fabricated most of the events she shared about her disappearance. The movements, the other captives, all appear to be figments of her imagination. Her greatest companion, Homer, appears to have been dreamed up from a copy of Homer’s Iliad. Prairie also has books on angels and near death experiences, forming the backbone of the story.

The last scene involving the school shooting was all foreshadowed with one line from the Sheriff’s wife, which Prairie and Homer helped to heal of her ALS. After giving them the fifth movement, the wife remarks it “will save their lives”. Prairie then passes this onto the five, and they all understand what must be done when the shooter traps them in the cafeteria.

Up until this point, the movements were somewhat odd to say the least. The movements themselves reminded me of a haka but the added vocalizations, such as the hissing and spitting, added an extra air of “What am I watching”? However, all of that vanishes in this scene. The tension built up to that point, and the music all make the final performance of the movements an epic moment.

Of course, the movements themselves don’t do anything. They provide a distraction and still fulfill the promise indirectly. This moment made me wonder if there was some truth to Prairie’s story, specifically her kidnapping by Hap and the existence of Homer and the other captives. This appears to be the reason why the five, Steve especially, gain new belief in The OA when she is being carted off on the ambulance. It looks like Prairie’s life may not be saved, but the lives of her new friends, the other angels were saved. Additionally, Prairie’s collision with the one stray bullet strikes me as exceptionally bad luck, or a fortuitous NDE that will allow her to leave Earth and be reunited with Homer and the others in another dimension. Hence Steve’s plea of “Take me with you”.

Prairie addresses Homer in the very last scene of the season, but yet again if her mind is warped then she will see whatever she wants to see.

The books may have been ones she collected after her incident as a means of gathering information on her new reality and a sense of kinship with her missing friends. However, given what happened before, it looks like season 2 will shed more light on the fact that Prairie is not insane and that her story truly did happen, either in part or in whole.

The ending left me staring at the screen hoping another episode would begin soon, but I don’t think that has to be a bad thing. It can be a sign of something rushed or sloppy, but in this case I think it is a sign of something intriguing that is yet to be finished.

RIP Carrie Fisher

Hello everyone,

Hope you all had a great Christmas break and hope that the New Year will bring greater things for us all. I never liked the commercial aspect of Christmas but I have always loved the opportunity to see more of my family. It’s a sad truth that there are people out there who will be experiencing the season without the company of a loved one. Not due to work or travel, but due to death.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016) passed  away today at 8:55 AM after complications from a heart attack she experienced on the 23rd. There were early reports that she was in stable condition, but those were taken from more ambiguous statements from her brother. There was an official statement from her mother yesterday stating that she was stable. Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, later confirmed that her mother passed.

2016 has been a grave year for celebrity deaths, taking greats such as Muhammad Ali and Prince. I am not familiar with Fisher’s work outside of Star Wars, although I hear she is great in her other roles. She’s served as a writer for films and television shows as well. However, her role as Princess Leia was enough to make her a true icon in popular fiction. Leia is not only a main character of one of the most popular series of all time, she is also one of the most popular heroines of all time. Whether you are a proud Star Wars fan, a causal one, or someone who thinks they’re too cool for it, you knew Princess Leia. Either you’ve heard the name or you recognize the clothing and the hairstyle.

Fisher’s death brings up a lot of questions, but I didn’t want to write this post to delve into those. She apparently finished filming Episode VIII already so there are no worries about the next installment. Episode IX is another issue, since Leia was allegedly supposed to be in the film.  However, it seems callous to focus on that right after her death. For now, let’s wish her family and friends the best as they get through this time.

Episode VIII

Spoilers for Rogue One and Episode VII

Rogue One is still on my mind, and feel free to check out my review. While Rogue One managed to be a prequel that had its own style, Episode VII was pretty much a remake of Episode IV. We follow a young orphan, Rey (Luke) who must come to terms with her Jedi powers and combat The First Order (The Empire). We get Kylo Ren (Darth Vader) , who is revealed to be related to one of the protagonists. We even get another death star (Starkiller base).

I discussed all the similarities with a friend and he argued that J.J Abrams would be hesitant to deviate from the original trilogy much, after the backlash that the prequels received. Episode VII played it safe, relying on the return of the old cast to generate hype and satiate the droves that turned out to see the film.

The prequels had some great moments, with Episode III being the strongest. However, the prequels left much to be desired. The performances by Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, the overuse of CGI, pod-racing etc. With that said, the prequels were not bad simply because they did something new. Rogue One is a great example of how the new star war films can respect the past and continuity, while also giving us fresh characters, locations, conflicts etc.

Kylo Ren’s character seemed like a metaphor for Abrams’s fears of not living up to the original trilogy. Ren is a character who wants nothing more than to live up to Darth Vader (the original trilogy) and is worried that he is seen as nothing but a unworthy imitation. One oft-cited piece of wisdom is that one should not try to replicate something that is deemed as great or untouchable. Sometimes, the only approach is to try something new.

Let’s hope we can see something new with Episode VIII.

Rogue One Review

After I saw Episode VII: The Force Awakens I took some time to analyze the film before launching into a  review. I was initially committed to doing the same thing for Rogue One, but since I got back I have been re-watching any scenes I can get my hands on, visiting IMDB and fighting the urge to watch Episode IV. I figured I would put this mood into something more productive.

I liked Episode VII, especially since it showed us the old cast again, but was disappointed that it was a rehash of a New Hope. Rogue One could have been a rehash as well. A prequel can seem like a money grab but the film may be my favourite Star Wars film, showing us new characters and new worlds that we don’t see anywhere else in the trilogy. Episode IV began with an opening crawl that tells us that rebels stole the plans for the Death Star, which is what led to the rebels knowing about the Death Star’s weakness.

Rogue One takes place only a few days before (with the exception of flashbacks) and tells us how the rebels acquired the plans. Firstly, I will say that the squad of new characters do not get that much development. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the central figure and gets the lion share of backstory. Diego Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor comes the closest to Erso’s level of backstory. With that said, the film still managed to make me attached to this new crop of characters. Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe is sure to become a fan favourite and is one of the highlights. Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO is also a scene-stealer and is my favourite droid in the Star Wars universe. After his performance as Sonny in I,Robot it’s pretty clear that Tudyk is a chameleon. Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook and Wen Jiang’s Baze Malbus bring up the flank for our main rebels and are both highly competent in their roles, even if they may not be as memorable in comparison to their partners.

Jones and Luna both carry the film well as two morally grey characters attempting to navigate their mission. They are also supported by Ben Mendelsohn, who plays the villainous Krennic.

Krennic reports directly to Grand Moff Tarkin (Guy Henry), which brings up one issue with the film. Peter Cushing originally played Tarkin in Episode IV but since he passed away, his face was digitally added to Henry’s body. The friend I saw the film with didn’t realize Tarkin’s face was digitally created but since I knew going in, it did bother me at times. The film did a much better job with this task than Tron: Legacy did with Clu, but it could have been improved as well. Most of the special effects in the film are amazing, with Tarkin and one scene in particular being the only stand out for subpar effects.

Forest Whitaker plays Saw Gerrera, a militant rebel who is at odds with the rest of the rebel alliance. He is also a central figure in Erso’s backstory, which makes him a pretty important character for the film. Whitaker’s performance is somewhat hampered by an accent that affects his line delivery, making some lines clunky and harder to make out. The character was also in the Star Wars: Rebels series and the character doesn’t have a similar accent in the show. With that said, I will say that the film left me wanting to find out more about the character.

Saw was involved in over a decade of combat with the empire, and this film brings some exciting combat of its own to the screen. Yen’s fight scenes are an obvious stand out but the film also creates great aerial and ground battles throughout. The last act is especially riveting and helped to clear up one of my biggest concerns about the movie.

When there was news of rewrites, it was rumoured that the rewrites were being done to lighten up the script. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney truly did that since Thor 3: Ragnarok was changed for that same reason. The last act makes it clear that the writers didn’t care about making the film light-hearted. Since the old trilogy never showed us the characters who stole the death star plans, you can guess what happens to them. Rogue One shows us. One issue from the rewrites is that a lot of scenes appeared to have been cut. Some of my favourite shots from the trailer were conspicuously absent from the film. There may be an extended cut but it is likely that some scenes were simply removed all together.

The Death Star’s weakness has been lampooned mercilessly, but Rogue One actually clears up the reason for the weakness. Rogue One also has several easter eggs and nods to the rest of the franchise. At one point Erso bumps into the same duo who accosted Luke in the bar in The Cantina, and we see Erso’s parents drinking the infamous blue milk. By the end of the film you’ll also want to watch Episode IV since Rogue One ends right where that one starts.

Speaking of the franchise, we see its most famous character in all his glory once again. Darth Vader is in the film for less than ten minutes, but every minute is glorious. There has been some criticism online for one of his lines, which many people saw as a corny joke. Maybe I was just happy to hear James Earl Jones again, but I didn’t mind the line at all. One thing that definitely wasn’t cheesy was Vader’s final scene in the film. It is filmed like a horror movie and deftly shows why he is such a feared figure.

Rogue One may not give us the most fleshed out characters but I give the film credit for making me care about the characters anyway. I also appreciated how well it tied in with the series’ continuity. I enjoyed it from start to finish and it leaves me wanting to watch the old trilogy all over again.

Rogue One

I have missed out on seeing Arrival, which was one of my most anticipated films due to the director’s previous work with Prisoners and Sicario. A big issue has been my schedule so far but I am hoping to have more free time later this month to see Rogue One, ideally during opening weekend.

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The original Star Wars trilogy wasn’t perfect by any means, with episode IV featuring some weak acting from Mark Hamill. However, his and Harrison Ford’s skills developed as the series progressed. The story was creative and executed better than the prequels, with less time devoted to a tepid love story between Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman), played terribly by both parties. The effects for the original trilogy have obviously aged, but many of them were groundbreaking for the time. With the prequels, we got cartoonish special effects in many places where sets, actors and makeup would have been better. I have no problem with special effects, but the prequels overused them and also had poorly rendered special effects in numerous places.

The special effects were much improved in Star Wars: Episode VII and the filmmakers made better use of motion capture to create more realistic CGI characters. Episode VII was also aided by better performances from its entire cast. Less Jake Lloyd, less Hayden Christensen, less Natalie Portman. Portman has been great in other roles but Star Wars was not one of them.

Getting to see the original cast and characters again was pretty much worth the price of admission for episode VII and was probably the greatest appeal. I also loved Daisy Ridley and John Boyega’s performances. Kylo Ren wasn’t as great as Darth Vader but I did like him as a villain, even if he was slightly disappointing. I expected the world, and the character fell short of that, but was still a good villain. As I look back on the film, or watch parts of it on Netflix, I empathize with one of the main criticisms: It is a rehash of a New Hope. Finding a young orphan on a desert planet (Rey) who comes to grasp with her Jedi skill to help defeat an evil empire. We even got our third death star and another revelation about unexpected familial bonds.

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Once I finally quieted the fanboy in me, and looked at the film more subjectively, I was disappointed by all of the rehashed material. Rogue One could obviously end up being the same since it is a prequel, but the trailers already show us some interesting new characters and new worlds. There are also other star wars spin-offs in the works such as Han Solo, with Donald Glover cast as the lead. Initially, I saw these films as a sign of greed and excess by Disney. They still could be, and obviously money is a factor even if it isn’t the main one. After Episode VII I do appreciate the chance to see a new crop of characters, new villains, new plots and new worlds. Maybe even some heroes and villains who aren’t related to one another.

I won’t begrudge Disney their profit if they hire a team that brings new, exciting and skillfully crafted Star Wars stories to a hungry audience.

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My Next Stop On The Road to Publication

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Analytics show that most of the people reading my blog posts are registered users of the site. Therefore, most people reading this will know that I have been trying to get my first novel published for a while now. For the past few years I have relentlessly pursued the goal of getting traditionally published, where I try to get an agent, who then tries to get my book published a major publisher (Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster etc.). I rejected self-publishing because I knew the struggle I would have as another nobody trying to get recognition for his work. With traditional publishing, there is still a very small change of huge sales, or even profit, but it always seemed like a worthwhile struggle. I think I held onto the possibility that I would be the 1 author in a million that becomes a bestseller, even if that meant years of struggles trying to get an agent.

Now, I’ve exhausted the list of agents that represent science fiction in the US and Canada. A new one might pop up every few weeks, but I’ve been rejected by the bulk of them. I have dozens of copies of the same generic rejection letters. I even spent over $1000 to attend a writer’s conference in New York last summer. I was in no position to spend this money frivolously, but I understood that the value of some experiences can exceed a price tag. I was excited about the opportunity to network with other writers and learn from published ones. I was also excited about the opportunity to pitch my book to agents in person. I got 4 offers to send queries, and I finally felt hopeful again. I edited my story, sent it off with high hopes, and got 4 generic rejection letters again. They weren’t form letters at least, but they still lacked any insight on how to improve: “Thanks for the opportunity…not right for me.” The opportunity to pitch to agents, the “pitch slam” was an extra $200. I don’t want to come across as entitled, but if people pay extra for the opportunity to pitch their letter to you, instead of just sending an email, then I think they are entitled to some constructive criticism that can actually help their writing. It doesn’t have to be an essay but even a sentence saying “starts too slow”, “opening is cliched” etc. can be a big help to an aspiring author. I guess the agents figure getting to pitch to them in person was more than enough reward.

 

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Me after my 4th rejection

I haven’t tried to take an easy route with getting published. I originally finished Elseworld in 2008 and after my initial attempts to get an agent failed, I went back to the book and rewrote it. Every time I got an idea of how to make the book better I did whatever I deemed necessary, eliminating characters, subplots, changing the ending, adding more character development etc. I finished this current version of Elseworld last year, and was confident that I finally cracked the code to getting published. I felt more confident about it than I ever had, which made me confident I could get an agent. Maybe I sound delusional but I always hear that self-confidence (to a certain extent) is necessary to succeed. I edited my query letter (a short pitch that is emailed to agents), changing it to resemble the pitch I gave at the Writer’s Conference. Although the book was rejected, I at least knew that my description of it could pique someone’s interest.

Armed with an improved book and query letter, I took on the task of getting an agent. The same pitch that worked on four agents, failed with a horde of them yet again. Two of the agents who were intrigued by my work at the “pitch slam” were two who previously rejected email pitches. I guess being face-to-face made an agent less likely to say no. Unfortunately, this meant that my email pitches (the standard method) were dead in the water again. More form rejection letters and more questions of what it was going to take to get an agent. I interned with one, and she agreed to take a look at my work. The agency didn’t represent science fiction though, so that plan died in the water too.

It’s been months since my last email query, and I completed another book in the meantime. My original plan was to forget about Elseworld for now and try to get this book published instead. At this point, it still requires editing before I will be comfortable submitting any queries. One option is to complete editing by the end of November, in order to get a polished version of the manuscript and start submitting queries. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months for an agent to respond with a form rejection letter, or perhaps a request to see more material. If I go with this plan, another year could pass, and I could be in the same position by the end of it.

My other option, is to bite the bullet and attempt to self-publish. I am not interested in independent self-publishing, where I print the book myself and hire artists for the book cover. There are plenty of platforms that supposedly offer decent readership and the chance for more exposure. Of course, blogging is one, but that hasn’t exactly paid big dividends yet. Medium is another, also little impact so far. Wattpad was recommended to me by a friend, who is considering using it himself, and it may be another avenue I pursue.

wattpad-4

 

 

Like any tool, I am cautious of using it. I already shared my brief experience with Inklitt, which is nothing but  a scam. After looking into Watpadd it does appear to be a legitimate platform, where readers can post their work online, typically chapter by chapter. From what I have researched it also has its faults. Its main readership are female teens and young adults, who gravitate most to romance, teen fiction and fanfiction. Genre fiction, like science-fiction is also pretty popular but gets overshadowed by the latter genres. From what I hear, a lot of the writing is horrible, so my work could be overshadowed by a wannabe E.L. James. I’m not saying I’m Ernest Hemingway but that is a disheartening concept. Yet it may still be one of my best options.

Originally I was considering putting Elseworld on Wattpad but I think I’ll put The Visitor on there instead.  As I’ve mentioned before, The Visitor‘s length would make it more difficult to publish traditionally anyway. Taking inspiration from a friend, I might upload The Visitor under a pen name and then continue trying to publish Elseworld traditionally. If The Visitor manages to get enough traction with Wattpad, and attract publisher attention (like it has for some people) then I could use that to better market Elseworld. That is the next goal. Success is obviously not guaranteed but I’ve got to make a plan to move forward.

Parasite

Hello everyone,

The below piece is similar to Worms, which is one of the first creative writing pieces I posted to the site.

***********

The pain kept building over the last hour,

It was an inconvenience,

Then an annoyance,

And then agony,

It forced me out of bed and to my bathroom mirror,

The pain seemed to move throughout the night,

But now it was firmly planted on my back,

I pulled off my shirt,

Twisting my torso to see what pulled me from my slumber,

Once I saw it,

I knew my next slumber would be my last,

There was a black lump to the left of my spine,

Pulsating,

I shuddered involuntarily,

The lump followed suit,

But it didn’t shudder,

It moved,

Gliding halfway up my back,

Until it was resting just beneath my left shoulder,

The mirror showed that my mouth was hanging open,

I wanted to scream,

But no sound would come,

I saw saliva drip from my mouth,

Yet I barely felt it,

I was hoping I would wake up from the nightmare soon,

It was a clichéd thought,

But a comforting one,

The lump started to disappear,

As if it was being absorbed into my skin,

Maybe my prayer was answered,

Once the lump was gone,

I held my breath for a few seconds,

Worried it would surface again,

I scanned the rest of my body for any signs of it,

Nothing,

I was safe,

For a few seconds,

The pain returned,

It was behind my eyes this time,

Pressure,

I looked in the mirror,

My vision was becoming blurry,

I could barely make out my eyes expanding,

Two white balloons that looked like they were ready to pop,

Everything went black,

Just before I felt my eyes burst,

Just before I heard them splatter against the mirror

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Second Book

Hello everyone,

Swelling with Jamaican and Canadian pride after seeing Usain Bolt and Andre De Grasse both medal in the 100m final. Now let’s see if Bolt can get gold in the 200m and 4X100m relay.

I have been spending more time watching the olympics, but I try not to let it distract me from the work I need to do. One thing I have been putting off for a while is continuing my second book, The Visitor. I wrote the first few pages years ago, but never went further with it until I returned to it earlier this year. My original goal was to finish it by July, but I faltered there and I then set another goal to finish it by September and I am aiming to get it done.

I stalled on a certain part of the story, where I didn’t know how to proceed any further. I already wrote the ending, and needed to fill in the pieces to get there. After brainstorming I finally got an idea of how to continue and have been working on linking another thread of my fictional world. My biggest worry at this point is that the new ideas I have won’t take me to 80,000 words, which is the minimum that many agents and publishers will accept for a science fiction novel. If The Visitor ends up being less than 60,000 words once complete, then it will be a novella. Many publishers don’t accept novellas, especially not from debut authors. Getting published is hard enough as it is and I do not want to make it harder for myself. Especially since the plan was to try and get this second work published, seeing if I had better luck with the hunt for the 2nd one and could then try to publish Elseworld afterwards.

I am still trying to get Elseworld published as well but I am sure that I have nearly exhausted the list of agents that accept science fiction in Canada and the US. I could try other countries but foreign agents do typically take more commissions for foreign sales. Additionally, New York is a large publishing hub, which is why it is ideal to have an agent located in New York or close to it. As I learned from interning with a literary agency, the publishing and marketing process still involves a lot of physical mail; Increased distance can make things more time consuming and difficult.

It appears that my best bet for publication is to complete The Visitor. Once I fill in the remaining gaps in my story, there is the question of how long the book will be. Then there is also the question of whether or not I should add extra passages just for the sake of padding it to 80,000 words.

If I can complete it by September, I can then spend time editing it before I send out my first query. Even though agents can take weeks to respond about a query, I still want to make sure the manuscript is near perfect before I begin the process. I would hate to lose a chance at publication because I submitted a sloppy manuscript.

Who knows how all this will turn out, but I have to keep working and dreaming.